I’ll admit it: we at Auntie’s Beads were once “Swarovski snobs”. We believed that if it didn’t bear the brand name, it wasn’t worth having. Then we stumbled on an excellent source for Grade A Chinese crystal and we changed our minds. Its luminosity, weight, brilliance, color, and overall design make it a product that is well worth having. (And it doesn’t hurt that the price is so reasonable!)
So what is Chinese crystal you may be asking? (And, believe me, I have had that question more than once.) Chinese crystal is, obviously, crystal that is made in China. All of the Chinese crystal we carry is Grade A. It is all multi-faceted and has great luminosity. In addition, it comes in many beautiful cuts, shapes, and colors. Aside from bicones, rounds, and rondelles (products similar to those made by Swarovski but not attempted knock-offs), Chinese crystal also comes in a wide range of unique shapes. (I especially LOVE the barrel beads.) And while some of the colors are similar, many are very original; the metallic effects are some of our all-time favorites.
The other common question I get asked by people new to beading or new to the Chinese crystal craze is, “Is there a crystal without lead?” The answer to that is no. By definition, crystal IS leaded glass. Whether it isSwarovski or Chinese crystal or any other variety of crystal, it will contain lead. (Lead is what gives crystal its weight.) Whereas Swarovski has a lead content of about 30%, Chinese crystal lead levels are typically in the low-to-mid 20% range. This means that Swarovski makes a heavier bead which accounts for some of the price difference between the two products.
That being said, because of recent concerns about lead poisoning, products containing lead have gained a lot of suspicion from concerned consumers and jewelry makers. Crystal is made in a unique way; the lead is bound into the structure of the glass so that no real danger is presented. Unless you are stacking bracelets up to your elbows and wearing 20 necklaces made of crystal, I think you are safe to bling yourself out. (The kiddos are a different story. I almost always recommend lesser amounts of crystal or substituting crystal with Czech glass when making children’s jewelry.)
Not sure where to begin when using Chinese crystal? We have a few great projects that are sure to inspire you. One of my favorites is the Keeping The Faith Bracelet because it really showcases the colors and brilliance of the beads. The Metallic Magic Necklace is another one of my favorites—I actually own this piece! Since many of our beads are sold by the piece, you can make a great pair of earrings for a great price as well. I hope you enjoy using this new, beautiful, unique product as much as we do!